Linda Gillard has become a bit of an adopted author over at the ReadItSwapIt forums. She does stop by to chat and swap now and then and many members champion her work. Not being a huge bestseller or an easily categorised genre writer, Linda had trouble getting a publisher to pick up her latest book and therefore went down the route of electronic self-publishing.
I may get lynched by the ladies of ReadItSwapIt for saying this but I wasn’t blown away by House of Silence. It was easy to read and enjoyable enough but I’m not sure I’d remember much about it in a year’s time.
I think I may have liked it a whole lot more if it was set in the past, preferably the twenties. There’s a number of reasons for this and I’m sure a lot of readers will disagree with me but here goes. The bulk of the story happens over the Christmas break, just a few days. A lot of stuff comes out into the open and I didn’t feel it was long enough for Gwen to connect with the family or adequate time for all those secrets to be revealed. In these modern times, Christmas is one of the few times family gather together to create a situation for this plot to unfold. If we hop in our time machine, it would have been more common for wealthier families to disappear β€œoff to the country” for weeks or months at a time. Just think of Brideshead Revisited (which I couldn’t get out of my head whilst reading this, whilst the themes and style is different, it starts with a friend being taken to the family home in the country and the family member wanting to hide his family away).
Secondly, Hattie just seemed too child-like for a woman in her mid-thirties. I can’t even suggest that she’d be better off as a teenage character because kids are much more in touch with the world these days. I might have been able to accept her naivety if it were set in a different era. Maybe Linda had meant for her mental development to have been stunted by her childhood but after getting to the end, I just thought she would have been a completely different person having gone though what had happened.
And lastly, do families really manage to get through Christmas without turning on the TV? At the start of the book, Linda makes it clear that the book is set now, in a modern world with the internet and television dramas. As soon as Gwen and Alfie get out into the country it’s like stepping back into another world where sewing quilts is the top entertainment. I’m sure a large number of people do enjoy sewing but it was clear that only Hattie and Gwen enjoyed it here. There was a mention of board games too but it all seemed so quaint.
I’m writing this as someone that does go to the family home in the country for Christmas most years. OK it’s a detached house not a stately home, but none of this seemed familiar to me. I tend to go for a week minimum and the time just flies by. Once you’ve tired of walks and looking at the mostly withered garden, you tend to put the telly on and watch cheesy films and the Doctor Who special. I don’t think there was even a TV in the whole book, despite two of the characters working in the industry.
You can read other opinions on this thread on ReadItSwapIt, although it has descended a bit into an anti-ebook discussion. There’s also a thread on the reasoning behind this being ebook only with comments from Linda herself here.